The apology from Dutch King Willem-Alexander for his nation’s complicity in slavery during the colonial era is a significant historical step. The apology was delivered on Saturday, the first day of the Netherlands’ official celebration of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in its colonies.

I’m in front of you right now as your king and a representative of the government. Being referred to as “Keti Koti,” which in Sranan Togo, a Creole language spoken in Suriname, means “breaking chains,” Willem-Alexander stated at the beginning of the ceremony. DW stated that the ceremony is being attended by thousands of ancestors from the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Dutch overseas islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

Dutch PM offered apologies last year

The Dutch king’s apology comes after one from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte last year about the Netherlands’ complicity in earlier tragedies. This was a portion of a larger discussion on Western colonial history, a discussion that has recently been sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Although Suriname and the Dutch possessions in the Caribbean formally abolished slavery on July 1, 1863, many slaves were required to work on plantations for an extra 10 years. The memorial and the king’s speech on Saturday served as the start of a calendar of activities for the 150th remembrance of July 1, 1873.

King’s ancestors made millions off slavery

According to recent study, the king’s forebears earned money of 545 million euros (USD 595 million) while they were under servitude, including gains from shares that were virtually given to them. 600,000 people were moved from Africa to Dutch possessions in the Americas, according to a DW study. Under Dutch colonial administration, several Javanese and Balinese people were also sold into slavery and sent to South Africa.

The descendants of the slaves were not given any compensation despite Prime Minister Rutte’s apology in December, which acknowledged the royal family’s role in slavery and the slave trade.

Instead, a 200 million euro (USD 217 million) fund has been established by the government to support programmes addressing the legacy of slavery in the Netherlands and its former colonies as well as enhancing education on the topic.

Reparations demanded

Some people in the Netherlands, however, are not content. Before the king’s address on Saturday, two organizations—Black Manifesto and The Black Archives—organized a protest march under the slogan “No healing without reparations.”

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